Many film-makers start at the very bottom, working with almost nothing, hoping to get noticed and trusted with bigger budgets. But many film-makers stay at the bottom, and their career never happens. Every now and then, however, among all the dreck and try-hards, you can sometimes find something very special and unique.
found. is one of those very special films.
Directed by Scott Schirmer, found. has won many awards at indie film festivals, and it deserves all of them. It has also been censored in many countries. It was outright banned in Australia. As of this writing, you can only get the uncut version in the U.S. and Austria. Let's talk about why this movie is so special and so polarizing.
Its Unique Vision
This movie is a perfect example of why I watch ultra-indie horror. If you can get past the low budget and all the attending awkwardness, the movie has the bravery to show events and perspectives that I haven't seen before.
The Jaw-Dropping Beginning
The movie starts simply. A 12-year-old boy named Marty tell us, "My brother keeps a human head in his closet." This statement is followed by a scene that is not only gruesome, but strangely emotional. That was all I needed. I was glued to the rest of the movie.
It covers multiple genres
After the first scene, much of the film is a thoughtful, if depressing, coming-of-age story. It's about a nice suburban family with a racist father who has anger problems. Mom tries to keep the peace by denying that the family is falling apart. Marty is trying to navigate middle school while being perpetually bullied. Oh, and Marty's older brother, Steve, is apparently a serial killer, which puts a morbid spin on the family drama.
It's One of the Most Tragic Loss-of-Innocence Films I've Ever Seen
Marty idolizes his older brother, Steve, and when he discovers Steve's secret, he doesn't tell anybody. He keeps it to himself, trying to understand his brother instead of turning him in. But this gnaws at him, and he finds an outlet for his feelings by being obsessed with extreme horror films and drawing pictures of brutal murder.
For awhile, the story is mostly about Marty learning how to navigate a more adult world. Steve's problematic affection for heads is not the center of the movie. But that contemplative focus on growing up doesn't last. Instead of realizing that life gets better, Marty is thrust unprotected into some of the deepest horrors that the human condition presents. In tone and theme, it is very similar to another piece of expert indie horror, Frailty.
The Great Attention to Detail
One of the strengths of this film is in the details. The video rental store in the movie brought me right back to my own days of perusing shelves of videotapes, trying to decide what to watch. The VHS tape with the partially removed title sticker in the cracked plastic case made me smile. And there is a very impressive collection of old and obscure horror movie posters hanging on the boys' bedroom walls.
The Unsettling Honesty About Bullying
Most stories about bullying in middle school are about picking on weaker kids by name-calling or physical abuse. But there are darker aspects of bullying that are not usually talked about. This movie explores how some bullying involves a semi-sexual context, which can be more damaging to a kid than being called names or taking a punch.
One of the things that intrigued me about the film from the beginning was the stylized title. The movie isn't called Found, it's called found., with a lower-case f and a period after the word. It wasn't until the end of the movie that I figured out why it was written that way. I realized that it's a perfect way to write the title - and it sent shivers through my body.
Its Technical Quality is Better than Most Low-Budget Movies.
The movie might have been made on a shoestring budget, but the money was used in all the right places. While the cinematography doesn't always work the way it should, the film gets points for attempting a more sophisticated style than you usually see in films at this level.
Most of the acting is not that great (okay, some of it is just downright bad), except for where it really counts. Gavin Brown, the boy that plays Marty, is better than all the other actors put together - except maybe for Ethan Philbeck, who is also great as the older brother Steve. We need to keep an eye on those two guys.
The Slow Build of the Gore and Violence
What surprised me the most is how the gore and sadistic violence are used in the film. Not only the amount of it, but how well-done it is. There's a scene where Marty watches a movie called Headless with his friend. We see Marty become traumatized by the movie, and its a very authentic performance. That scene is where you realize things are more serious than you may have thought. From that point to the end of the movie, there are scenes that could really upset some viewers.
That Ending, Though!
In most movies of this type, the ending is predictable. But not this one. No matter what you think is going to happen, you're wrong. The last 20 minutes of the movie filled me with a sense of actual horror that I rarely feel.
If you like unusual (and unusually violent) horror films, and you don't need them to have Hollywood polish, then I recommend this one. In a world of flashy but empty jump-scares, this is a hidden gem that needs to be found.
Here's the NSFW trailer.
NOTE: If you seriously plan on watching this movie, then I don't recommend watching the trailer. You know everything you need to know.